Being vegan has its bonuses – the health benefits of plenty of veg, the conscience-sparing knowledge that no animals pass your lips. But there’s one downside no vegan can deny: when it comes to dining out with your non-vegan friends, you’re less dinner date, and more dinner problem! For most vegans, the experience of dining out with their meat-eating pals is something of a disappointment; you’re lucky if there’s more than one item on the menu you can eat and it's likely to be an uninspiring three bean chilli. If you’re less lucky it’s a chicken salad without the chicken, maybe with a bit of extra avocado and a bread basket to fill the gap.
Thankfully it doesn’t have to be this way. As vegan, veggie, pescatarian and flexitarian diets become more and more prevelant, a number of restaurants are rising to the challenge of providing a delectable menus for both their omnivorous and their vegan diners. Here’s our pick of six of the best flexi-friendly restaurants in the U.K. – so whether it’s vegan sushi, pizza, risotto or Sunday roasts you fancy, we've got a venue for you.
Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY
Sushi is raw fish – not a food type that lends itself obviously towards vegan diners. At Sushi Samba (half way up the breathtaking Heron Tower the city, with views that take your breath away - quite literally for some as the glass elevator whizzes up the 39 floors!) vegan dining is turned entirely on its head. Starters that look like mini-works of art, truffles to treat, vegetarian nigari and maki and mouthwatering mushroom tepanyaki are just a few of the items on this full vegan menu. And chef Claudio Cardoso is so flexible, even the cocktails that come with a side of sushi can be adapted for a vegan palate. Food so intriguing your fish-loving friends will be asking for a taste.
InterContinental London Park Lane, One Hamilton Place, Park Lane London, W1J 7QY
Who doesn’t love Italian cuisine? But cheesy pizzas and creamy pasta sauces can prove particularly problematic for vegans. Not so at Theo Randall’s eponymous restaurant in Park Lane’s luxurious InterContinental hotel in London, where animal product-free dining is the name of the game. Of course traditional, meaty dishes are fully available for your non-vegan dining companions, but with a vegan menu as full and exciting as that on offer at Theo’s restuarant, absolutely everyone is catered for. The joy of being able to order risotto without having to quiz the chef on its butter content, and a delicious choice of mains including linguini with violet aubergines or a stunning array of wood roasted root vegetables and lentils, mean diners at this restaurant feel utterly spoiled. Vegan guests are promised a ‘full dining experience’ and that’s exactly what they get. The set vegan menu costs £29 for two courses or £35 for three.
52 Haymarket, St. James's, London SW1Y 4RP
The name of this restaurant doesn’t immediately ring vegan bells, but despite a relatively small menu (you order at the till and then take your seat where a waiter brings you your meal) there’s a very welcome: ‘Vegan? No problem!’ approach at this newly opened West End restaurant. The smaller, less formal younger brother to the original Duck and Waffle restaurant in the Heron Tower welcomes any dietary preference, and while duck burgers and duck jam doughnuts will keep your meat-eating buddies amused, the fabulous array of fresh and seasonal veggie dishes mean there’s more than enough variety and excitement to leave vegan diners feeling spoiled too. Our particular favourites were the beautiful array of multi-coloured roasted beets. Oh – and did we mention, they have cocktails on tap, too! What else could you wish for?
Restaurant in Soho. Sites in or delivery stores in Chiswick, Notting Hill, Ealing, Chelsea, Wimbledon, Battersea, Wandsworth, Herne Hill, London Bridge, Stratford, Docklands, Crouch End, Highbury, Islington & City, Hornsey, Willesden Green and Royal Tunbridge Wells
Pizza without the cheese is like, well, bread, basically. Which is why pizza restaurants are particularly challenging for even the most undemanding of vegans. But pizza chain Firezza has solved the challenge of how to treat those avoiding dairy to a tasty pizza experience, and it’s refreshingly flexible too. Every pizza on the menu can have its cheese replaced with Violife vegan cheese (a soya-free, coconut oil alternative) so you can really have whichever pizza on the menu that catches your eye. With vegan toppings like pineapple, olives, slow roasted marinated tomatoes, chillies, fresh basil, mushrooms and red peppers available, you can be creative, or stick to Firezza’s suggestions. The perfect flexi dining option for pals wanting a quick and easy meal.
Restaurants in Birmingham, Worcester, Leicester and Derby
Pulses feature highly in South American and Mexican cuisine, and Bodega has taken plant power to another level with their full vegan menu. With dishes such as frijoles on the menu – filled with black beans cooked until velvety with garlic, roasted cumin seeds and a hint of chili or the curiosity-piquing ‘dirty rice’, we can guarantee you won’t be looking wistfully at your non-vegan dining companion’s plate.